Buddhist Scriptures, by E.J. Thomas, , at sacred-texts.com
For the two following passages from the Questions of Milinda see the Introduction, pp. 14, 19.
The denial of the individual in the following is not the denial of a fact of existence, but of the theory which was then and is still held, that there is some permanent entity behind the passing phenomena, which gives unity to what we call the individual. Our own theory of the soul, which has come down from Plato, has much in common with the ātman-theory opposed by Nāgasena. In one respect both Plato and Nāgasena make the same logical point. If you infer an entity behind an individual man, you must also logically infer it behind every individual thing, such as a chariot. Nāgasena rejects both entities, and Plato equally logically accepts both. His solution is not identical with the Indian view, but it is an acceptance of the view that it is more than the constituent parts which makes a thing what it is. In each thing—a bed, is Plato's example—he assumes "the existence of some one Form, which includes the numerous particular things to which we apply the same name" (Rep. X).
Now king Milinda approached the elder Nāgasena, and, having approached, he exchanged friendly greetings with him, and after the customary salutations he sat down at one side. And the elder Nāgasena returned the greeting, whereby he won the heart of king Milinda. Then king Milinda said to Nāgasena, "How is your reverence
known, what is your name?" "O king, I am known as Nāgasena, my fellow brethren address me as Nāgasena, but whether parents give the name Nāgasena, or Sūrasena, or Vīrasena, or Sīhasena, nevertheless, O king, Nāgasena and so on is a term, appellation, designation, a mere name, for in this matter the individual does not exist."
So king Milinda said, "Let the five hundred Greeks and eighty thousand brethren hear me. Thus says this Nāgasena, that in this matter the individual does not exist; is it a wise thing to approve of this?" Then king Milinda said to Nāgasena, "If, reverend Nāgasena, the individual does not exist, who then gives you your robes, bowls, dwellings, and medicines necessary for the sick? Who enjoys them? Who keeps the commandments? Who practises meditation? Who realizes Nirvana of great fruit? Who destroys life? Who takes what is not given? Who indulges in evil lusts? Who speaks untruth? Who drinks intoxicants? Who commits the five crimes 1 that bring their fruit even in this life? Therefore there is no good, no bad, there is no doer of good or evil deeds, and no one who causes them to be done. There is no fruit or ripening of the fruit of good and bad actions. If, reverend Nāgasena, any one were to kill you, he would not
be guilty of taking life, nor have you even a teacher, or instructor, or ordination. When you say that your fellow brethren call you Nāgasena, who in this matter is Nāgasena? Can it be, reverend sir, that Nāgasena is the hair 1?" "No, O king." "Is he the hair of the body?" "No, O king." "Is Nāgasena the nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, abdomen, spleen, lungs, intestines, mesentery, stomach, excrement, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, serum, saliva, mucus, lubricating fluid, urine, or brain in the head?" "No, O king." "Can the body be Nāgasena?" "No, O king." "Or the sensations, the perceptions, the predispositions [elements of the mental and moral character], or the consciousness?" "No, O king." "Then, reverend sir, is Nāgasena the body, sensations, perceptions, predispositions, and consciousness combined?" "No, O king." "Well, reverend sir, is Nāgasena anything else than these five?" "No, O king."
"Reverend sir, I ask and ask you, and do not perceive Nāgasena. Is Nāgasena anything but a mere word? Who is Nāgasena in this matter? You are uttering a falsehood: there is no Nāgasena."
Then the elder Nāgasena said to king Milinda, "You, O king, are of noble birth and very delicately nurtured; when you walk at midday with your feet on the hot ground and burning gravel, treading the hard pebbles and stones, your feet hurt, your body is wearied, your mind is afflicted, and the consciousness arises that your body is pained. Now, did you come on foot, or in a carriage?" "I did not come on foot, reverend sir, I came in a chariot." "If your majesty came in a chariot, explain to me what a chariot is. Can the chariot-pole be the chariot, O king?" "No, reverend sir." "Is the axle the chariot?" "No, reverend sir." "Are the wheels, or the frame, or the banner-staff, or the yoke, or the reins, or the goad, the chariot?" "No, reverend sir." "Then, O king, is the chariot all these parts?" "No, reverend sir." "Well, O king, is the chariot anything else than these?" "No, reverend sir." "O king, I ask and ask you, and do not perceive a chariot. Is 'chariot' anything but a mere word? What is a chariot in this matter? Your majesty is uttering a falsehood: there is no chariot. You are the first king in all India: of whom are you afraid in uttering a falsehood? Let the five hundred Greeks and eighty thousand brethren hear me. Thus says this king Milinda, that he came in a chariot, but when he is asked, 'If your majesty came in a chariot, explain to me what a
chariot is,' he does not produce a chariot; is it a wise thing to approve of this?"
At these words the five hundred Greeks applauded the elder Nāgasena, and said to king Milinda, "Now let your majesty talk if you can."
So king Milinda said to the elder Nāgasena, "I utter no falsehood, reverend Nāgasena: resulting from the chariot-pole, the axle, the wheels, the frame, the banner-pole, there is that which goes under the term, designation, and name of chariot." "Well does your majesty understand what a chariot is, and even so, resulting from my hair, and so on [the thirty-two parts of the body, and the other groups of elements], there is that which goes under the term, designation, and name of Nāgasena. But in the strict sense there is no individual in the matter. And it was said by the sister Vajirā, O king, in the presence of the Lord:
"Wonderful, reverend Nāgasena, marvellous, reverend Nāgasena, most excellently have the intricate questions been answered. If the Buddha were to stand here, he would applaud. Well done, well done, Nāgasena, excellently have the intricate questions been answered." (Questions of Milinda, 25 ff.)
119:1 The first five of the six great crimes mentioned in the Jewel Discourse, see p. 101.
120:1 This list is the Formula of the thirty-two parts of the body, a subject of meditation for realizing the doctrine of the impermanence of things. It occurs in the first section of the Miscellaneous Collection of Discourses.